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Otto Preminger: Anatomy of a Movie

November 27, 2009 - December 20, 2009

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Bonjour Tristesse, December 19, 20
Columbia Pictures/Photofest

As legend would have it, Otto Preminger was a bald-headed baddy scolding helpless actors about flaws in their performance—the tyrant on the set. But Preminger’s films, some thirty-seven in all, bear no sign of this heated temperament, instead sharing a muted detachment that ironically excites our own engagement with his complex characters. A transplant from Viennese theater, Preminger proffered an overarching vision that found its way into almost every genre, whether it be mystery, melodrama, biopic, comedy, musical, or historical saga. From his earliest triumphs, a string of taut noirs like Laura, Fallen Angel, and Whirlpool, through his feisty indie films of the fifties, Saint Joan, The Man with the Golden Arm, and others, to his politically inflected epics like Exodus and Advise and Consent, Preminger promoted a cool take on human nature that simultaneously savored cinema’s expansive visual spaces; over time his eloquent way with the camera grew complex and sensuous. The willful director’s insistence on artistic autonomy compelled him to become one of the first champions of independent film. Beginning with 1953’s The Moon Is Blue, Preminger released a trove of spirited works (Anatomy of a Murder, Carmen Jones, Bonjour Tristesse) notable for their single-minded pursuit of prickly social ills like drug addiction, racism, and promiscuity. Join us for this fourteen-film survey of a director who, when he was bad, was better.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Friday, November 27, 2009
7:00 p.m. Laura
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1944). Detective Dana Andrews is enthralled by a portrait of elusive Gene Tierney in Preminger’s sleek noir, a study in duplicity that asks not just whodunit, but what “it” is. Featuring Clifton Webb and Vincent Price as preening rivals. (88 mins)

Friday, November 27, 2009
8:50 p.m. Fallen Angel
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1945). This follow-up to Laura trades the earlier film’s gloss for lower-depths grit. Andrews drifts into a small town and into big trouble when his plans to finance a romance with Linda Darnell by marrying rich Alice Faye go awry. (98 mins)

Sunday, November 29, 2009
5:30 p.m. Daisy Kenyon
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1947). Joan Crawford is torn between married lawyer Dana Andrews and tormented army gunner Henry Fonda. “Directed by Preminger with his customary blend of sinuous visual eloquence and analytic intelligence . . . (it’s) that rarest of Hollywood entities: a realist romance.”—L.A. Times (99 mins)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009
7:00 p.m. Anatomy of a Murder
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1959). Introduced by Carol Clover. A backwoods town is the setting for sordid accusations of murder and rape in “one of the most accomplished and ambiguous courtroom dramas ever filmed in America.”—Village Voice. With Jimmy Stewart for the defense, Ben Gazzara as the accused, and Lee Remick as trouble. (161 mins)

Friday, December 4, 2009
6:30 p.m. Whirlpool
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1950). “Can a man make a woman do things she doesn’t want to?” Preminger’s most overtly psychological noir finds Gene Tierney married to analyst Richard Conte but under the sway of smarmy hypnotist Jose Ferrer. (97 mins)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
7:00 p.m. Advise and Consent
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1962). This decades-old drama of Beltway intrigue reads like a contemporary playbook for political maneuvering, with Henry Fonda and Charles Laughton among the players. “By far the best political movie ever made in this country.”—Peter Bogdanovich (140 mins)

Friday, December 11, 2009
8:20 p.m. The Moon Is Blue
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1953). Condemned by the Legion of Decency for using terms like “virgin” and “pregnant,” Preminger’s indie sex comedy is more surprising in its frothiness than for its alleged prurience. (99 mins)

Saturday, December 12, 2009
6:30 p.m. Saint Joan
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1957). Jean Seberg was chosen from thousands of applicants to play the Maid of Orléans in Preminger’s version of George Bernard Shaw’s play, adapted for the screen by Graham Greene. (110 mins)

Saturday, December 12, 2009
8:40 p.m. The Man with the Golden Arm
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1955). Frank Sinatra has a dope addiction that jazz can’t cure in this groundbreaking film, censored for its frank treatment of a tough subject. “Sinatra’s performance is pure gold.”—Pauline Kael (119 mins)

Sunday, December 13, 2009
3:00 p.m. Exodus
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1960). With sweeping gusto, this epic adaptation of the Leon Uris novel details the events leading to the founding of the state of Israel. Paul Newman leads a stupendous cast. (212 mins)

Friday, December 18, 2009
6:30 p.m. Carmen Jones
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1955). Dorothy Dandridge is the titular temptress, applying her wiles to G.I. Harry Belafonte, in a sizzling black-cast update of the Bizet opera. (107 mins)

Saturday, December 19, 2009
6:30 p.m. Bonjour Tristesse
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1958). Pampered teen Jean Seberg looks back at a summer of Technicolor heartbreak on the French Riviera in this gorgeous adaptation of Françoise Sagan’s novel. “Arguably, this is Preminger’s masterpiece.”—Chicago Reader (94 mins)

Saturday, December 19, 2009
8:30 p.m. Skidoo
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1968). Set in San Francisco, Preminger’s acid-fueled generational jest pits the hippies against the Mob, as embodied by Jackie Gleason. With Groucho Marx as God. (98 mins)

Sunday, December 20, 2009
5:00 p.m. Bonjour Tristesse
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1958). See December 19. (94 mins)

Sunday, December 20, 2009
7:00 p.m. Bunny Lake Is Missing
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1965). A quietly cracked Carol Lynley is the mother of a missing daughter who may or may not exist; Laurence Olivier investigates. Loaded with suspicion and suspense, this late Preminger is “an underrated masterpiece.”—Senses of Cinema (107 mins)

The Pacific Film Archive wishes to thank Victoria Preminger for her generosity, as well as the Academy Film Archive and especially May Haduong; Jared Sapolin, Sony Pictures; Caitlin Robertson, 20th Century Fox; Carol Clover; and James Quandt and Brad Deane, TIFF Cinematheque, for their advice.